Friday, October 31, 2008
Guy Ritchie is so in love with a single movie, he keeps making it again and again.
Like "Snatch" (2000) and "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" (1998) before it, the British director's "RocknRolla" is as hyperkinetic as it is hyperverbal; funny, violent and fixated on the kind of imaginary underworld in which a junkie rock star (Toby Kebbell) waxes poetic about the meaning of life as encapsulated in pack of cigarettes. It's all about the allure of glamour and beauty on the outside; death and decay on the inside.
That pretty much sums up the movie, too. Populated with a large cast of colorful characters with names such as Tank, Cookie and Handsome Bob, "RocknRolla" is a serpentine affair involving crooked accountants, lawyers and politicians, in addition to the kind of, er, professionals whose job titles would be hard to sum up in a single word. "What do you think we are, gangsters?," sniffs London real-estate fixer Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson), when accused of the kind of thuggish behavior he's known for. "That's not my style."
Style, after all, is what "RocknRolla" is all about. And it has it in spades, from the cockney "Pulp Fiction" dialogue to the music-video editing of the rambling narrative.
Mostly, it centers on a deal between Lenny and Russian mobster/developer Uri (Karel Rodin). Uri owes Lenny 7 million euros to grease the wheels of commerce and zoning. In exchange, Lenny gets to borrow Uri's "lucky painting," a canvas we never see but which changes hands so many times I lost track. Four of the more prominent of those hands belong to One Two (Gerard Butler) and Mumbles (Idris Elba), a pair of raffish ne'er-do-wells who head up the parade of reprobates.
You'll recognize Thandie Newton, Jeremy Piven and Ludacris among them, but it's the actors you have never heard of who lend this stylish criminal enterprise what little substance it possesses.
-- Michael O'Sullivan
RocknRolla R, 114 minutes Contains obscenity, violence, drug use and sex. Area theaters.